2017.03

Wednesday, 03.01:

Parking lot, heavy rain. I left extra-early so I could pay rent at the office, deposit cash to cover the rent check, mail chapbooks at the post office. In my bag, two books: Mark Doty’s Still Life with Oyster and Lemon and Jennifer Givhan’s Protection Spells. I’m about ten pages in on each, toggling back and forth, wondering what I need to do to write more. Maybe this car, in this wind and rain, is my writing desk? Three years ago, I wrote poems in the car after work, before work. I know this is true, but I don’t know what happened to the poems. They must be somewhere, some box, some journal, some file on my old laptop. Why do I spend so much energy looking back?

Yesterday I read through a dozen journal entries saved on my laptop from 2014, caught in the weather, the downspiral of memory and guilt at what happened to R and whether I could have prevented it, saved him somehow. I know I will never know. What hurts—well, it all hurts—but what scares me is how deadened I had become. Incapable of engaging with pain or joy. Longing, but no hope.

Does pain leave an afterimage? Does that, too, hurt?


Thursday, 03.02:

Three associates called off yesterday, and one went home early last night because of a family emergency. I’m back to open the store at 7:30. Colder today, with snow possible. Amid this interconnected grid of parking lots with few trees and only the narrowest green swaths, I wonder what attracts so many Canada geese. I’ve always found their call to be haunting but soothing, a good omen, signaling home, home, especially when they trail in such high thin ribbons against a cold and windy sky.

Doty: “We are instructed by the objects that come to speak with us, those material presences. Why should we have been born knowing how to love the world? We require, again and again, these demonstrations.” [10]

Overcast. One pink cloud among the grey-blue herd, heavier, more weighted somehow. I guess it’s the height that I can’t judge from down here: it’s probably tall enough to be catching the sun. Like those heavy bottle-glass prisms set into ship decks to carry some light below.

The dead pine I noticed last year has since shed about half the bark from its lower trunk—all silver and patchy—but the branches still fist hundreds of globules, clusters like cones or galls I often mistake for small birds perched and weighing down the dead limbs.

Here comes my inventory specialist. Time to open the store.


Friday, 03.03:

The child in the apartment below us has been screaming all morning. All its life, I believe. The family is otherwise quiet, except for the father’s occasional shouting, which may or may not be related to the child and her—what? tantrums?

But today I have a headache such that movement itself is painful, and the wailing I usually find ways to move beyond—playing music, turning on a fan for white noise—the wailing pierces my skull, so painful and so unceasing that I do the unthinkable: I pull on a t-shirt, stagger downstairs (it hurts to wear my glasses; my vision is blurry today with or without them), and pound on their apartment door. The woman is small, meek, with long black hair, wearing a beautiful pale pink sari and the tentative smile one offers a stranger, a neighbor, and I restrain myself from shouting though I am angry; I am hurting, and her child is a stabbing needle that must be withdrawn. “This is too much. Too. Much. Day and night, every day and every night. This is intolerable. Please do not make me go to the manager. Please stop this now.”

To write it makes it sound almost polite, when to hear it must have seemed that an angry, aged bull came stomping to her door with ridiculous demands. (How does one quiet such a child?) Or: she is a child and children cry; how does he not understand this? Or maybe she, too, is trapped by the child’s screaming that will not stop, locked in her apartment and caught now between the screamer and the angry man and none of this is her fault, and in the year we have lived above these people we have never spoken beyond a murmured hello. I don’t know their names. The child has ruined any chance of feeling kindly or neighborly; I have let my irritation at that nuisance—why does sound cut through me so deeply?—ruin my feelings or potential feelings towards these neighbors whose names I don’t even want to know.

I am hunched at the dining table, glasses off, bent over this journal with my task chair dropped low so I can lean on the table, lean my face close to the page to see it. The table is awash with clutter—unopened mail, chapbooks trimmed and waiting to be tied, stapler, tape, books and notebooks and mailing envelopes, pens and scissors, my laptop, a cup of tea, a few cards we received after our marriage, who knows what else? I am thinking about writing spaces and how I use this table mainly for chapbooking. The desk I set up in the bedroom seemed ideal but gets too much direct light. The small writing desk in the study is where T keeps his computer and three monitors; it doesn’t feel the right height for writing, which means I need to find the right chair. Somewhere I have a kidney-shape board, a lap desk I bought from Levenger thirty years ago and which I used at my rocking chair to read and write, but that chair is in storage though I think I am going to get it this weekend when I finally have a day off.

It’s not so much the furniture. It’s clearly not the need to be surrounded by books, though I love to be surrounded by books. As much writing as I do in my car, in that cramped space, I think I could set up a board in a closet and be fine.

It’s the quiet. I need the quiet. And I’ve just realized that the past thirty minutes have been quiet, the only noise the shushing of traffic on the bypass beyond our apartment. What shame I feel at my outburst at the downstairs neighbor is mitigated by overwhelming relief.

I am reading (re-reading; I started it last year and don’t know why I set it aside) Jee Leong Koh’s Steep Tea. I’m really struck by how it responds to others’ writing, how it dips into a larger conversation so seamlessly. And the poems are beautiful, not overstated (a failure in much of my own work I think) (when I worry).


Saturday, 03.04:

Falling down dancing.

A line in my head as I woke just now. The rest of the dream gone.


Wednesday, 03.08: 

Typesetting Ed Madden’s new chapbook (Becker Series) and listening to Sufjan Stevens on Amazon—his song “Fourth of July” from Carrie & Lowell feels pretty much like the soundtrack I need to write about R. Thinking about the stories he told me about almost dying (the river/inner tube, the rope around his neck) and how the theme that stuck with me was how no one noticed or tried to help him. Such sorrow in the man.